Park is second ex-Balestier player to slam club
Two days after former Balestier Khalsa captain Paul Cunningham slammed the club publicly, another former player has come out to criticise the Tigers.
South Korean midfielder Park Kang Jin, regarded as one of the best foreign imports in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League over the past few years, met up with The New Paper yesterday to speak out against club chairman S Thavaneson.
Park, 26, was among the four foreigners released by the club at the end of last season, along with compatriot Kim Minho.
He has been a key figure of the Tigers since 2012, helping the club to the League Cup in 2013 and the RHB Singapore Cup last season.
Like Cunningham, who was released after the Kiwi rejected a 15-day contract extension last October, Park is also upset with the way the club dropped him, which he described as "unprofessional".
"When the season ended, after the Cup final, the club never told us which players they want to (retain) or release," said Park, whose contract expired on Nov 30.
"I texted Thava but he didn't reply. I asked the general manager (Cheng Tim Nee) about it, and he asked me to go on leave in South Korea first. He said the club will let me know me later.
"I didn't hear from them until I returned to Singapore in mid-December. They said they didn't want us. By then, it was too late; all the other clubs had filled up their foreign-player slots.
"I think what the club did is very unfair. If they didn't want us, they should have told us early, so we know how to plan for next year.
"I've played in Singapore for six years and, when I was at Gombak (United), the players were always told early whether they stay or go."
Park arrived in the S.League in 2008 with foreign club Korean Super Reds.
After scoring 10 goals in his debut season, he moved to Gombak in 2010, where he stayed for two years.
When then-Gombak coach Darren Stewart arrived at Balestier in 2012, Park and a host of players followed the Aussie.
"I think Thava wanted to get rid of all the players whom Darren brought to the club," Park said, referring to Kim, Jaslee Hatta and Ruhaizad Ismail - all four arrived with Stewart from Gombak in 2012.
"We did so well last season, winning the Singapore Cup, and (yet) the club released so many of us.
"When players do well and want a better deal the (following) year, the club say no and look for cheaper players.
"If the foreign players keep getting changed, how do the club improve?"
Kim has recently returned to Korea, and Park, who has made over 100 appearances in the S.League, will leave for his home country today.
Park said that he plans to hang up his boots after he returns to South Korea.
As for the S-League, it's goodbye for good.
"I'm finished with the S.League," Park said. "I'm really disappointed and disgusted with the way the club treated some of us."
I think what the club did is very unfair. If they didn’t want us, they should have told us early, so we know how to plan for next year.
— Park Kang Jin
Thava: We have treated everyone professionally
Balestier Khalsa are under no obligation to inform players of their intention to retain or release them before their contracts are up.
Balestier chairman S Thavaneson (above) was steadfast in his response to The New Paper when told of former player Park Kang Jin's complaints.
The 66-year-old maintained that the club acted "properly and professionally" with regard to the players' contract extensions and releases.
He said: "Let's be clear. The club will not be rushed into making a decision over a player.
"After the Singapore Cup final, we told Park Kang Jin and the other players that the club were not in a position to re-sign foreign players.
"If Park says we were unprofessional or not courteous, then I can reverse it as well.
"At times, a player will sign for another club as soon as his contract is up, without informing us - where is the courtesy shown to us then?
"This is football. If the player is so great, why didn't another club sign him?"
Park's outburst was the second time this week that Balestier and Thava have come under fire from ex-players.
On Thursday, TNP reported that former Tigers captain Paul Cunningham was upset over his release from the club last October.
When asked why there was so much discontent with the club lately, Thava maintained that Balestier have not treated anyone unfairly.
He said: "Everyone knows this is a simple case of players who had a good deal with Balestier, who were treated well at the club, and are now unattached.
"If no club want you, why blame us? This is the reality of football."
Thava also objected to Park's claims that he had an agenda against the players brought to the club by former Tigers coach Darren Stewart.
Stewart was released at the end of 2013, after helping Balestier win the League Cup and to a creditable fourth in the league that year.
Along with Park, Kim Minho, Jaslee Hatta and Ruhaizad Ismail - all signed by Stewart from Gombak in 2012 - have left the Tigers.
Said Thava: "(Park) is treading on dangerous ground by saying that, because it is certainly not true.
"We still have players at the club who were signed by Darren - my goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam, Ridwan Jamil, Zakariah Nerani and Yusiskandar Yusop.
"As I have said before, we released a number of players from last season because we want to freshen the team."